On Spiritual Genders

Vi- Grail
4 min readJul 14, 2023


In 1990, native american members of the LGBT settled on the term “Two-Spirit”, as an umbrella term for nonbinary identities that exist as parts of native american religions and cultures.

The Bugis people of Indonesia recognise 5 genders. Among these genders are the Bissu, intersex/transgender people who act as intermediaries between the Bugis and the gods, because the gods are both male and female, and so for a human to talk to the gods, they too must embody two genders.

The concept of gods existing beyond or as multiple human genders is a common theme in religions around the world. The Norse god Loki, despite being described as male, is said to have given birth as a horse. Scholars of the Abrahamic religions generally agree that Yahweh exists beyond human gender, and that His He/Him pronouns are a human simplification.

Fundamentalist Christians also believe that gender was handed down directly from the lord as sacred roles assigned to Adam and Eve. This contrasts with the atheist view that gender arose over time in relation to reproductive roles, which again, draws on the story of the origin of species.

From all of these examples, it is obvious that religion plays an important part in gender identities in every corner of the world. And even to those who are irreligious, gender strongly relates to their world-conceptions which contrast with religious narratives. No matter what religion or lack thereof you are, your religious status probably informs your view on what gender is, who has it, and what purpose it serves.

With this in mind, can we truly say that an atheist cis man has the same gender identity as a christian fundamentalist cis man? The atheist believes his manhood is the result of natural evolution, while the christian cis man believes his manhood was given to him by god. Perhaps both of these people later discover they are trans women. The christian trans woman says that god made her as a woman, and gave her a trial to overcome. While the atheist trans woman says that neurobiology is responsible for her gender, and genetic bad luck for her sex. Are these really the same genders?

I propose the answer is no. I propose that if you are a christian, and you meet an atheist trans woman, then you should not mention the lord in any conversation about her gender, and should stick to the facts of biology. And if you are an atheist, you should not deny the christian trans woman’s feeling of connection to her god through her gender. In both these cases, disrupting gender narratives is likely to cause dysphoria. If our goal is harm reduction, we need to accept both as valid.

And should you come across a two-spirit or a bissu, I implore you with the greatest urgency not to misgender either. Religious and cultural roles are part of, are at least can be part of, gender. To disrespect the places of these identities in their native cultures is to disrespect the genders. So, tolerate them. Accept them. Show curiosity, if it’s appropriate.

I mentioned earlier that it’s a common belief across the whole world that the gods transcend human gender. They are neither male nor female, as humans understand the term. Perhaps they embody both of these genders, like Yahweh, or perhaps they switch between the two at will, like Loki, or perhaps they have an aspect of masculinity or femininity that is entirely unhumanlike, like Aphrodite.

But a trans human can be any gender, right? A nonbinary person could match any of these three conceptions of divine gender, or more. So, if gods have nonhuman genders, or perhaps I should be more specific and say nonmortal genders — then so can humans. If Aphrodite’s gender relates to Her divinity in that She is divinely feminine, then why the hell can’t a human’s?

It’s important to remember that divinity is not hierarchy. Worship is hierarchy, but divinity does not imply worship. Before the advent of monotheism, it was common practice to believe in the gods of all cultures. If the romans came and sacked your city, well that’s just because the roman gods are stronger than yours, or perhaps the romans are more pious, or maybe your gods are punishing you.

There doesn’t even need to be a heirarchy of power between a god and a mortal. The Japanese religion Shinto worships 8,000,000 “gods”. Or more accurately, Kami. Kami could also be translated into english as “spirits”, but nonetheless, they have the quality of divinity which we are discussing here. Plenty of Kami are no more powerful or important than a human.

And in modern myths, our understanding of divinity has evolved such that 20th level adventurers going off to slaughter the gods has become a trope in Dungeons and Dragons. The gods are powerful, but there is no intrinsic difference between gods and mortals. It’s simply another way to be.

So, can you avoid making a trans woman who believes her gender is a relationship with her god dysphoric? Can you avoid making a trans man who believes his gender comes from pure biology dysphoric? Can you avoid making a two-spirit whose gender is important to their culture’s religious ceremonies dysphoric? Can you avoid making a bissu who uses their gender to talk to god dysphoric? Can you avoid making a godgender person who understands their gender through divinity dysphoric?

None of these things is hard to do.



Vi- Grail

Nonbinary Goddess explores philosophy, politics, and pop culture to find lessons that can improve people and help improve the world. http://soulism.net